The Jets franchise has had more reboots than the Spider-Man movie series, so it’s no surprise that Gang Green is currently caught in a web of rebuild.
General manager Mike Maccagnan has Jets’ fans in that familiar feeling of starting over -- this after a disastrous 5-11 campaign that saw the end of valued players like center Nick Mangold, cornerback Darrelle Revis, and wideout Brandon Marshall.
No more quick fixes by the Jets, as Maccagnan, Bowles, and the team’s brain trust have all but resigned themselves to shedding themselves of high-priced vets who aren’t a realistic piece of the long-term puzzle and will now let more of their youth serve.
The jettisoning of the aforementioned trio will reportedly save the Jets around $46 million in cap space, which as it stands, leaves them with about $33 million in available room to use in free agency this week.
Credit goes to Maccagnan and Bowles for not trying to patch up this sinking ship with duct tape and glue, as they realize there are far too many holes. What worked in 2015, when the team had a good and fun ride en route to a 10-6 mark and just missing the playoffs, did not work last season.
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was a great pickup by Gang Green in 2015 when he was traded by the Houston Texans for a late-round conditional draft pick. The move proved to be beneficial for all parties, as it reunited the quarterback with his former head coach Chan Gailey, who was also brought in during the offseason as the Jets offensive coordinator and play-caller. Fitzpatrick then went on to have the most successful season of his journeyman career (3,905 yards and 31 touchdowns). This past season was a complete 180-degree turn for him, however, as he and the Jets started the season 1-5 and never recovered.
Fitzpatrick, a free agent, has almost certainly played his last game as a Jet. As of right now, his successors are Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg, who are both still under their rookie deals. Neither evokes confidence from Jets Nation, though, so look for a veteran to certainly be added to the mix.
Mangold, 33, who spent his entire 11-year career in green and white, will be replaced by a younger, cheaper option in Wesley Johnson, who filled in rather well while Mangold missed eight games with an ankle injury.
Revis struggled all season, as his Hall-of-Fame worthy skill set eroded almost overnight. He finished the season with just one interception and was victimized by younger, faster wideouts on big passing plays throughout the campaign. New York currently lacks a cornerback with Revis’s cachet on its roster, but he didn’t offer much of anything in production, so an upgrade at his spot is needed.
The wideout position was in flux, even when Marshall was in the lineup. But with the well-traveled receiver now out of the picture, Maccagnan will have to trust his scouting department and his draft acumen and see what the younger guys can offer. Eric Decker, 29, is coming off an injury-plagued 2016 where he was placed on season-ending injured reserve in October with a bum shoulder. Decker, who turns 30 on March 15, also had offseason hip surgery. And while Maccagnan noted that he “anticipates him [Decker] being ready for the start of the season,” it remains to be seen if the wideout is truly part of the team’s plans. Decker has two years remaining on a five-year, $36.25 million deal that he signed with the Jets in 2014. He has an $8.75 million salary cap figure in 2017, but a release would create $5.75 million in cap space. A release would also carry a hit of $3 million in dead money, so he may be safe for now.
Decker would be the only wideout over 25 years old on the roster, so even with him still on the team, there will be a youth movement in the corps. And if he is released, it’ll be up to a group of promising prospects like Quincy Enunwa, Robby Anderson, Charone Peake, Devin Smith, and Jalin Marshall to grow together and carry the torch.
It appears there won’t be any more quick fixes by the Maccagnan and the Jets, so Jets’ fans should brace themselves for a bumpy ride, with hopes of an eventual smooth landing.
Gang Green notes:
- Decker in scheduled to have a $9 million cap number in 2018. If the Jets cut him, they’d free up $7.5 million in cap space, with $1.5 million in dead money attached to the transaction.